Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (2014)

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The old student adage – “better a bottom in front of me than a frontal lobotomy’ – was never truer than in Martin Scorsese’s new film “The Wolf of Wall Street”.  

The film tells the bizarrely true story of Jordan Belfort (based off his autobiography):  a rags to enormous riches story of the ugly side of stock-brokerage.   Starting off young, naive but ambitious in a ‘standard’ Wall Street company, Belfort (Leonardo di Caprio) is taken under the wing of wild-duck maverick Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), who teaches him some of the ropes as well as introducing him to some distinctly bad habits.  Following redundancy on Black Monday, and picking up sidekick Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) on the way,  Belfort focuses on selling dodgy penny stocks to blue chip customers, with astonishing success.  His success draws him to the attention of an investigating FBI agent (Kyle Chandler) who gives him and his team hell in trying to convict him of wrongdoing.  Around this general plot line drives the alcohol and drug-imbued love life of Belfort:  a steady stream of absurdly beautiful women normally wearing nothing more than a smile, led (notably) by Australian beauty Margot Robbie (About Time).  

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This is definitely not a film for the prudish.  The nudity and sex is (if you’ll excuse the pun) definitely in your face.  The drug taking is extreme and prolific:  the very first scene of the film shows Belfort “doing crack”…  (this is in fact a killer joke, copyright my son George Mann).  And there is limited albeit distressing violence (of the marital abuse variety).  All in all, this is not the film to take your favourite maiden aunt to see on a Sunday afternoon.  But if you can stomach all of this (or, perhaps more appropriately, snort cocaine off the stomach of all of this) then this is a gripping story with fantastic performances throughout. Nobody – but nobody – can talk to the camera so grippingly as Leonardo di Caprio.  He does it in style in this film, particularly through a tour de force walkthrough of the dealing floor whilst explaining the ins and outs of trading to you, the audience.  Overall, di Caprio’s performance is – quite frankly – astonishing.  He has never to date won an Oscar and that is a crime.  (Perhaps with this performance?  But with the likes of Christian Bale (American Hustle), Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyer’s Club) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) up against him, this might not again be his year – we will see).

There are actually many similarities about this film and his earlier film, The Great Gatsby.  Both have him starring in an hypnotic and totally over the top role, with both emphasising the debauched limits of acceptable behaviour, albeit 60-odd years apart.

The rest of the cast are also fantastic:  Jonah Hill is standout (in lots of sorts of unpleasant ways), adding both humour and pathos:  his acting at the point where Belfort is about to discover his terrible mistake is just superb.  And Rob Reiner, as Belfort’s long suffering Dad, and Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”), as a dodgy Swiss banker, are also both standout performances.

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You might from this precursor think I loved this film.  You wouldn’t be completely correct.  Firstly, it was long – way too long.  I hate to think what happens if Peter Jackson and Martin Scorsese ever go out to dinner together.  Waiters hanging around ’til 3am in the morning, getting increasingly irate about inconsiderate diners not allowing them to lay up for breakfast and go to bed!   Some of the monologues in “Wolf” – whilst brilliantly scripted – were 50% too long.  The whole film could and should have been condensed to at least 75% of its length.  

And I also had severe reservations about the morals of the film.  The film shows the rise and fall of Belfort.  But then you see Belfort’s successful later life and you never get to really see the misery of the poor investors – many of who were ordinary working people – who funded his revolting lifestyle through their investment of their life savings.  As someone who has personally been on the sharp end of this type of practice (via property investment), I felt this both glorified his dodgy practices and made marital infidelity and drug-taking seem normal and acceptable.  For this lack of balance, I will penalise the Fads.

Fad Rating:  FFFf.

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